It’s what we all envision when we start our child in ballet. Hair neatly tucked into a bun. Perfectly tied pink ribbons on ballet slippers while our dancer floats across the stage. Our cameras recording each step while we marvel at how they weightlessly balance on pointe. It’s a picture of ballet perfection. Naturally, as parents, it’s often wondered, when should I introduce my child to the next level of ballet instruction, Pointe? While the answer to this question we often hear is not simple, we have compiled this guideline to offer some insight on why we wait, and why it’s worth it.
Their Bones Aren’t Ready
Most ballet dancers begin their journey to Pointe around the age of 12-14 years. Although they have started practicing at a much younger age, years of experience is not the primary factor to consider when progressing into Pointe. Before this age, their bodies are simply not ready. The bones in their feet have not developed adequately and could potentially cause permanent deformities if introduced too early. Putting weight on the toes and bones in the feet before they have had a chance to ossify, will damage the growth plates and lead to lifelong complications. In fact, many dance academies require doctor’s permission before accepting them into a Pointe program. This protects the dancers and the longevity of their dance career.
Crawl Before You Walk
The progression into Pointe requires a strong foundation of skills that must be mastered before even considering moving on. For example, to dance en pointe, the dancer must keep perfect alignment thru the upper body down to the tip of the toes. Professional dancers make this look easy and seamless, but they spent years practicing diligently before they were even given their first set of pointe shoes. Your child’s instructor is the best person to decide if they are ready to take on new challenges or if further instruction is needed. Introducing them too early will ultimately end in frustration and almost certainly, injury.
Muscle Development Takes Time
Supporting a dancer’s entire weight on the tip of their toes requires balance. This balance requires strength. Muscle development in the ankles, feet, legs, and hips is critical for proper pointe technique and without it, an injury is unavoidable. These muscles take years to develop and are something that all dancers are improving throughout their entire careers. Patience is key if you want to reap the rewards down the road. Allow your child to build this strength over time with practice and repetition. Before you know it, they will be completing perfect pirouettes on stage.
Young minds need nurturing and guidance. Dance is no exception. The psychological resilience it takes to succeed in ballet is tremendous, which is why the most famous ballet dancers are so admired and revered. Young minds may struggle with the long, stressful hours that tenured dancers put in. Each dancer must develop their physical strength along with their mental strength to give them the confidence they need to get back up after a fall or spend hours memorizing a routine. Making sure your child is ready to take on the physical and psychological challenges when enrolling them in a Pointe program will help soar to new heights.
Encouraging our kids to take on new challenges is a great way to build new skills, make new friends and find something they love to do. As parents, we love seeing our children excel in their activities but sometimes are so eager for our kids to succeed, we forget to ask if they’re ready for the challenge. When in doubt, trust the instructors working with your child and ask questions. They have the experience and expertise to help your child grow. Keep those cameras rolling, parents! You are their biggest fans.